Located approximately 30 kilometres north of the famous Victorian town of Ballarat, Clunes Primary School has 130 students ranging in classes from Prep to Year 6. While the school may be quite small in comparison to many others and operate in a low socio-economic area, these are by no means regarded as hindrances to the provision of a modern and interactive learning environment. Figuring prominently in that environment are Epson EMP-400W projectors and interactive whiteboards in each classroom.
The school of hard knocks
Admittedly, even though Clunes Primary has been seeking to take full advantage of projector and interactive whiteboard systems for several years, the EMP-400Ws made their first appearance at the school as recently as the beginning of 2008. According to Mr. Andrew Parry, the school's principal, introduction of the Epson projectors was actually a direct result of recognising that all projectors are not created equal.
Having purchased seven interactive whiteboards and brand-named projectors for each of the school's classrooms in early 2006, Mr. Parry and his staff quickly discovered that 'cheap' projectors were, in the long run, expensive and even counter-productive. "Within 12 months," Mr. Parry says, "we were confronted by lamp failures, poor performance and teachers who simply weren't prepared to continually put their classrooms in total darkness every time they wanted to use the projectors."
This was all to change when Mr. Parry attended a technology expositon in late 2007 and saw the Epson EMP-400W in action. "In full light the projector was giving out brilliant images as crystal clear as a modern television set," he says. "After some additional research and discovering that, among many other things, the Epson projectors were capable of short-throw projection and were easy to install and maintain, I decided to phase out the DLP [Digital Light Processing] projectors in favour of the 3LCD-based EMP-400W."
A stated preference
Having selected an authorised Epson business partner as the preferred supplier of interactive whiteboards and Epson projectors, Clunes Primary made its first tentative step towards Epson at the end of 2007 with the purchase of a single EMP-400W. According to Mr. Parry, the response from teachers and students was immediate. "As soon as that first Epson projector was installed and teachers saw the enormous difference in quality, there was an almost instant demand for the same projector to be installed in each classroom," he says.
Then, towards the middle of 2008, an injection of funds to the school gave Mr. Parry the ability to purchase additional EMP-400Ws to replace all the existing third-party DLP projectors even before they had reached their second full year of use.
Improved teaching and learning
With the introduction of the EMP-400W projectors, teachers and students are all experiencing a dramatic improvement in the classroom; and among those improvements is teacher comfort. Due to lack of short-throw capabilities, the thirdparty projectors had to be positioned several metres away from the whiteboard. The result of this was that whenever a teacher or student was standing in front of the whiteboard, there would be a large shadow cast across its surface. "In most cases, the teachers had to get themselves into a very awkward position just to be able to use the whiteboard and have the students see what was on the whiteboard," Mr. Parry says.
In stark contrast, the EMP-400Ws can project a 60-inch 16:10 image from a distance of only 0.65 metres. Now, with the new projectors mounted on short booms connected to the top of the whiteboards, the school's teachers are at last able to stand directly in front of the whiteboards and conduct their lessons effectively and without having to constantly stand aside.
Projectors that pay for themselves
With the EMP-400W's high performance E-TORL (Epson Twin Optimised Reflection Lamp), Mr. Parry states that the projectors are set to save the school an enormous amount of money and classroom time. "The other projectors we were using prior to the EMP-400Ws had - at best - a lamp life of around one year," he says. "Even then, within a matter of months, there was such a degradation of quality that teachers had to darken their classrooms and students had to move closer to the whiteboards in order to avoid straining their eyes.
"Compare that to the Epson lamps, which have maintained their brightness and clarity of image, even in classrooms that have all their blinds up and have very bright lighting. From the financial side, it means that rather than continually paying for replacement lamps every year, we're able to utilise that money in other areas."
It's on the subject of support and maintenance that the EMP-400W is demonstrating additional benefits to Clunes Primary, particularly in the ease of installation. Given that funding for the school is often hard to come by and whenever possible, it's the staff members who assume dual roles of teacher and IT support technician. Even Mr. Parry is not excluded, and the sight of the school's principal installing projectors is almost par for the course. "Easy installation was one of the features that initially attracted us to the EMP-400W," he says. "All that's required is a small spanner for half-adozen bolts, then connecting two cords - one to the power and the other to the teacher's computer.
"By having the ability to install the projectors myself, without having to call on external resources, I've estimated that we have saved over $2,000 dollars, which is enough to buy another unit - and that's precisely what I'm planning to do in the next month or so.
"We have been through the difficulties resulting from buying second best," Mr. Parry continues, "and we've learnt from that. We now know that when it comes to a truly effective and cost-efficient projector and interactive whiteboard solution for the classroom, the EMP-400W is in a class of its own."